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Sport 19: Lightworks

Monte Cassino

page 57

Monte Cassino

My father came back from the war
unable to disparage the motives of Mussolini,
because ‘he simply picked the wrong horse
at a time when those who were honest
thought Hitler was going to win’.
Principle has no place in war, or,
if not quite that, can rarely sustain itself
when flak's flying and you've no choice
but to keep your head down. His sentiments
I think. He said, ‘Most of us fought because we had to,
and because we were scared of saying No.’
But I don't see him as either cowardly or brave
any more than he sees himself as having
Saved the Free World. I asked him once
if he'd ever killed a man face to face
and he told me of a day at Cassino
when he'd been sent forward to watch and recce.
‘I wouldn't have been 200 yards
from Jerry's position when, to my amazement,
I saw a German soldier emerge from cover
and sit on a stone wall in the sun.
He had his shirt off, sunbathing in full view.
I drew a bead on him and then lowered my rifle.
I couldn't do it. I could have killed him easily.
I never told anyone of the incident.’
For years after the war I listened to his
speech punctuated with Italian words:
andiamo, buon giorno, amici,
uno momento. I was uno bambino.
He had found another language
which he loved as much or more
than his own. It made me realise
page 58 we could have been other, born of others
and brought up somewhere else
with different ways of expressing
similar, or not so similar, things.